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Tales from the potty training trenches

It’s National Potty Training Month, and we’ve all been there, done that — or are gearing up for our first run at it. It seems overwhelming, but what is it really like? Real moms share from the trenches about their darkest potty training moments.

When faced with potty training, many parents would almost rather stick with diapers a while longer. What could be an easy rite of passage often turns into a battle of wills and wits. And even if the training is going well, there are times during the whole potty training process when things can go really bad. Quickly. We asked a few parents to share their tales from the trenches.

Around the world

“My wife and I have twin 3-year-olds, so our potty-training stories are quite fresh,” shares Kenneth Havens. “We live in the countryside of Japan so we get a unique view both from the culture (Japanese and rural) and language.” Haven’s wife is Japanese, so he takes on the responsibility in the family of teaching the kids proper English terminology.

“Just yesterday my daughter told her teacher that she had to go poopy. Unfortunately, the teacher didn’t know this term, and reassured my daughter that she wanted to go there too someday. Like a trooper, my daughter kept it in most of the day, but when my wife and I came to pick her up, she broke out into tears… and unloaded right at the front doors to the school,” he says.

As soon as the family was back at the car, Haven’s son quietly remarked that it was his turn. “When running back to the kindergarten facilities as fast as I could, I tried to calm his excited bowels by empathizing with him, ‘Daddy has to go poopy too! Let’s hold it in for one more minute!’ Right when I basically screamed this out, I realized that I was passing the only group of people who would understand what I was saying (all the international parents),” he admits. “All said and done, my tactic worked and my son made it to the toilet in time to do his business. This is when my son told all the teachers that his daddy has to go poopy… Can you help him wipe too?”

Beach blanket blunder

Marcia Noyes of San Antonio, Texas, recalls a summer trip to the beach that took an unfortunate turn. “My first two children were quite close in age — 14-1/2 months apart. One summer, I took our children (at that time 1-1/2-year-old daughter and almost 3-year-old son) to a Texas beach,” she recalls. “With other people around us on the beach, I worked with pails and shovels to help the kids to build sand castles. My son worked furiously on digging an ever bigger and bigger hole. At one point my daughter, who became tired of the project, toddled off to the edge of the water. I ran to pick her up, rinsed her sandy legs off in the shallow waves, then turned around to go back to my son.”

At this point, Noyes remembers squinting to get a better view of what she was seeing — and she was shocked. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she says. “A lady sunning close to my son was wide-eyed in horror as she watched him pull down his diaper and start peeing in the hole he had dug. When I hurried to stop him, the lady gave me a scathing look that read, ‘What in the world are you teaching your children?’ Totally embarrassed, I quickly gathered my children up and headed to the car,” she adds.

Communication breakdown

Mirta Desir is a lawyer, mother and founder of Smart Coos, the e-learning language site for newborns to 8-year-olds. “I started infant potty training my little girl, DJ, with elimination communication and sign language at 3-weeks-old,” she shares. “At about 6-months-old she was signaling ‘potty’ or ‘pee-pee.’ Well, one day at 6-months-old, she signaled ‘poo-poo,’ so I picked her up and sat her on her potty in her room.”

DJ’s dad was watching the whole thing, and didn’t agree that she was truly signing for poo-poo, and was sure she wasn’t pooping. “With utter confidence Dad strolls over to DJ, lifts her off her potty just as she was midway through her bowel movement and poop went flying everywhere — bed, floor, chair, bookshelf,” Desir recalls. “Both Dad and DJ stood there shocked. Dad because he was splattered with poop and DJ because she was just interrupted. That was the last time Dad ever questioned her need to potty and our daughter’s ability to signal her needs,” she adds.

Home improvement?

“While we were shopping for new faucets and fixtures at a home remodeling store for our bathroom renovations, my son, Mike (then 3; now 15), crawled up on a top shelf, pulled his pants down and started [to] do #2 in the display toilet,” remembers Amy Weirick. “We were talking with the staffer, so didn’t realize what was going on until it was almost too late — when I heard funny sounds coming from the shelf above and behind me. I managed to pull him off just before the big event and ran to the restroom for real relief,” she adds.

More on potty training

18 Best potty training books and videos
Potty training challenges solved
Potty training praise and encouragement: How much?

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